You can't reach the mayor of Baltimore by e-mail. You can't reach the mayor of Washington by computer, either. But if you want to talk to the mayor of Westminster, just have your modem call his.
Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan made his electronic mail address public this week, opening a communications link to anyone, anywhere, who has access to a computer, a modem and a mail account.
Mr. Yowan can be reached at kyowanccpl.carr.lib.md.us.
Carroll County Public Library patrons who have accounts can use library computers to send electronic mail to the mayor, said Scott Reinhart, assistant director for automation support and technical services.
Neither of Mr. Yowan's big-city counterparts has entered the information highway.
"Probably not," replied Ramone Bain, Mayor Marion Barry's press secretary, when asked if Mr. Barry has plans to go on-line.
Mr. Yowan, 53, apparently is the first elected official in Carroll County to open an electronic link with the public.
The Westminster mayor is using his home computer for the new public access. He said he hasn't had requests from the general public for electronic access, but he hopes to start receiving messages from constituents after his address is publicized.
Mr. Yowan, a physicist who works at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia, searched America Online's profiles last year and found about 80 Westminster households that are customers of the commercial computer network. He expects the number to increase exponentially, because network subscriber service is available through the local library system.
E-mail is more convenient than the telephone, Mr. Yowan said. "You can send it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and [the receiver] can read it at any time.
"If you go to make a call, you have to stop and think, 'Well, are they going to be home?' 'Is it too late to call?' "
Mr. Yowan bought his first Apple IIe 12 years ago and now owns a Pentium, a step up from an IBM 486 or a MacIntosh. He and his wife, Joy, use e-mail to communicate with their two grown sons, one in New Jersey and the other who lives in Westminster.
In Carroll's smaller towns, technology hasn't been a priority.
In Manchester, Mayor Elmer C. Lippy said he is still getting his feet wet after winning election last month and hasn't given computers much thought. But, he added, he can be reached by fax.
In New Windsor, population 855, Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said the town office has acquired a computer. But the machine doesn't have the requisite accounts for electronic mail yet, "primarily because nobody knows how to work it [signing up for an account]," he said.
In county government, the County Commissioners may be on-line with a similar e-mail link, "hopefully in the not-too-distant future, anywhere from two months to six months," said spokeswoman Maggy MacPherson.